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Atheists push for greater visibility and acceptance
In a bid for greater acceptance and visibility, atheists are also undertaking community service projects, organizing children's camps and engaging in other activities often associated with religious groups.
According the American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released this year, 15 percent of Americans claim no religion, making them the only group to grow in every state since 1990, when the ``nones'' made up 8 percent of the U.S. population. Atheists make up a smaller portion -- 2 percent -- but they've almost doubled their numbers in the past two decades.
`"Many people would admit to not knowing the answers, but fewer would say they're atheist,'' says Lesley Northup, a professor at Florida International University who studies religious trends. ``People often say `I'm spiritual, but not religious.' There is a growth of people who say `I don't need to be religious to be a good person.' ''
Those are the people Loukinen wants to reach.
`"If everybody who was atheist came out of the closet, you'd see how many of us there really are,'' said Loukinen, 46, a firefighter."
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